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Children's Legal Rights Journal

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For almost two centuries, American family law has asserted that it places children and their welfare at the heart of custody and parentage determinations. That statement, institutionalized in the United States as the "best-interest" standard (or principle),has become almost impossible to attack. However, the best-interest standard is widely criticized for providing little concrete guidance to courts asked to settle disputes involving children's custody. The standard, as applied, grants courts remarkable flexibility. As a result, reliance on the standard ensures widely discrepant, even contradictory, results in custody cases, depending on the presiding judge. The standard, presumed to determine and protect the interests of children, more often seems to encourage courts to focus on and to protect the interests of the disputing adults.